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The Global Political Order, Nuclear Order, and Nuclear Security

  • AUTHORKanti Bajpai
  • Sep 21, 2015

The following paper was presented at the "Reimagining the Global Nuclear Order: International Approaches in Historical Perspectives" at Oxford University, September 21-23, 2015.

The global political order and the global nuclear order have helped limit proliferation. Most states do not want nuclear weapons, but there are states that do (or did) and have been prevented from acquiring the bomb by the norms, practices, and institutions that constitute global political and nuclear order. On the other hand, North Korea and Pakistan were not prevented from getting the bomb; and Iran may yet get it, though with the deal of July 2015 that possibility has receded. So far, Islamic State and Al Qaeda have been prevented from acquiring nuclear devices. The US and Russia have reduced the size of their arsenals, but they are modernizing their forces, and the rate of nuclear reductions is far slower than was hoped with the end of the Cold War.

How did the world arrive at a situation in which one highly unpredictable state (North Korea) and one politically unstable state (Pakistan) have nuclear weapons, and one state which is associated with revolutionary politics (Iran) has been at the edge of nuclearization for more than a decade? How is it also that the two most virulent Islamic terrorist groups are (reputedly) attempting to acquire a nuclear bomb? And why have the two biggest nuclear weapons powers continued to hold on to thousands of bombs even though their rivalry dramatically abated if it did not end in 1989? The answers to these very specific, concrete questions will give us a better idea of what role the global political and nuclear order have played in this state of affairs.

Fourth Wave Proliferation: North Korea, Pakistan, Iran

If the US was the original nuclear state, then North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran represent fourth wave proliferation. In between, proliferation occurred at the hands of the Soviet Union, Britain, and France and China in the second wave in the late 1940s-1950s and 1960s, and India, Israel, and South Africa in the third wave in the 1970s.

Why and how did North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran go nuclear? If we distinguish between demand side and supply side explanations, there are three broad reasons why states want nuclear weapons – national security, domestic political, and normative.  On the supply side, states are enabled to go nuclear in one of two ways – by accessing fissile materials and the technical-engineering ability to produce a working device; or by acquiring the bomb from a nuclear weapon power. 

While North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran may have sought nuclear weapons for domestic political and identity reasons, security – national or regime – played a key role. All three claim to live in dangerous neighbourhoods, with rivals and enemies who by themselves or in league with allies present formidable challenges. Whatever the views of outsiders, Pyongyang, Islamabad, and Teheran regard themselves as having rivals and enemies who could do them great harm. North Korea fears South Korea and Japan, both of whom are more powerful economically and are allied militarily to the US. The regime is determined to stay in power, and fears that the US and its allies want to undermine its rule. Pakistan looks at India as a country that has tried to destroy or subordinate it since the original partition of 1947, that succeeded in dismembering it in 1971, and that on any measure is several orders of magnitude more powerful. For at least two decades, India was in addition more or less allied to the Soviet Union. Pakistan also looks sideways at Iran on its east. Iran is the biggest state in the Gulf region but has powerful rivals in Saudi Arabia and, at least until 1991, Iraq. It also finds itself in a sea of Sunni neighbours. Iran fears Israel militarily, even though the air-travel distance between the two countries is nearly 1800 kilometres. It has traditionally cast a wary eye northwards to Russia and eastwards to Sunni-dominated Pakistan as well. To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan have all been US allies in varying degrees at different times.

In sum, if countries in the first three waves of proliferation can make the case for going nuclear on security grounds, then so can North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran.

It is one thing to want to acquire nuclear weapons, it is another thing to develop them or get them from a country that already has them. The hurdles to going nuclear on the supply side are daunting. States must have the fissile material, the technical-engineering capacity to turn the fissile material into a working device, and/or be in a position to get fissile material, bomb designs, and instrumentation; or they must obtain a readymade device from other states. Hurdles on the supply side include not possessing uranium or plutonium, lacking scientists and engineers who can produce fissile materials as well as design a working device, the constraints imposed by the non-proliferation regime after 1974, and the reluctance of even friendly nuclear weapon powers to share materials, knowhow, or a readymade device.

North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran overcame all these hurdles. North Korea has natural uranium of its own. Its scientists and engineers were trained by the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, and Moscow delivered a nuclear reactor in the early 1960s under an agreement on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Pyongyang may also have received some assistance from Beijing, though in 1964 China refused to share its nuclear weapons technology. Pakistan probably transferred gas centrifuge technology to North Korea in exchange for missile technology in the early 2000s. In order to get help with reactor technology, North Korea signed an agreement with the IAEA and the Soviet Union in 1977 and acceded to the NPT in 1985 to get four Light Water Reactors (LWRs) from Moscow. 

Pakistan has mined its own natural uranium, and in addition has imported uranium from China, Libya, and Niger.  The government handpicked potential nuclear scientists and sent them abroad, mostly to the West, to be trained.  Its first nuclear reactor, the Canadian-designed and assisted, KANNUPP, which began operation in 1971, came with IAEA safeguards. The expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear programme occurred under Dr. A.Q. Khan who brought with him Dutch designs for a centrifuge plant. Dr. Khan also had built up extensive business contacts as a metallurgist at URENCO in Holland. These and other contacts were used to import components for nuclear reactors and weapons. Pakistan was also helped by China from the late 1970s onwards. Beijing supplied “centrifuge equipment, warhead designs, HEU, components of various missile systems, and technical expertise”.  More recently, in 2000 and 2011, China supplied two CHASNUPP nuclear reactors. Two more CHASNUPP reactors will begin operation in 2016 and 2017. In November 2013, Pakistan announced that China would provide two additional KANUPP reactors, and in 2014 Islamabad revealed that China is due to build three reactors in Muzzafargarh as well.  None of the Chinese reactors comes under NSG guidelines since Beijing claims they are authorized under a pre-2004 agreement with Pakistan which is not covered by NSG rules. This is because China was not a member of the international group before 2004. 

Iran, until recently, had very low reserves of natural uranium, and had relied on South African “yellowcake” purchased back in 1982. In 2013, it announced new indigenous discoveries which may have tripled reserves.  Iran got its first nuclear reactor from the US in 1967.  It also sent its scientists abroad to be trained. In the early years, Iranians were trained in the US and UK. After the revolution, upto 18,000 students may have been sent abroad, and several prominent scientists were lured back. Iranian nuclear personnel were also trained at Khan Laboratories in Pakistan and in China.  In 1990, China agreed to provide three nuclear reactors. Under US pressure, Beijing eventually reneged on deal. An agreement with Russia in 1995 to provide reactors too came under US pressure and was eventually abridged. Nevertheless, Moscow probably helped Iranian scientists to master key elements of the nuclear fuel cycle and to build a heavy water reactor. In 1996, Iran got centrifuge drawings from Pakistan.  

Several conclusions may be drawn from this account of the North Korean, Pakistani, and Iranian nuclear programmes. First, security was a powerful motivating force in the decision to acquire nuclear weapons. All three states fear powerful regional rivals backed by extra-regional great powers. Second, all three started out with civilian nuclear programmes and used these programmes to train their scientists abroad, to acquire reactors, and to get natural uranium and nuclear fuels. The Western powers trained their scientists and engineers and, in the case of Pakistan and Iran, provided the first reactors. China and the Soviet Union/Russia too provided reactors, and China has been especially helpful to Pakistan and Iran in setting up power reactors. Pakistan in turn has helped the nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran. Fourth, with the help of the international community in training scientists and providing the initial reactor and reactor fuel, North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran developed their own engineering and reactor capacities as well as nuclear weapons. China played a role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.

Why did the West and other nuclear powers help set up civilian nuclear programmes in these countries? And why did they not stop recipients of civilian nuclear aid from using international assistance to build weapons programmes? At the heart of the nuclear order is its oligopolistic structure dominated by the original nuclear five and a compact between the original five and other signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). According to the compact, the five are pledged to disarm and to provide nuclear aid, and the rest are pledged to abstain and to operate civilian nuclear plants under international safeguards. The origins of this compact goes back to US President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative in 1953 that laid the foundations for the setting up of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the NPT.  The compact allowed the original five to build their nuclear arsenals with the promise that they would eventually disarm; and it allowed the rest of the world to acquire nuclear knowledge and technology including reactors and fuels. In the end, the five nuclear powers and the subsequent proliferators cheated. The five continued to amass nuclear weapons, and the new nuclear weapons powers used international assistance to build the foundations of their nuclear weapons programmes.

The imperatives of national security, as both the original five and later proliferators saw it, caused to them to go nuclear in the first place and to build ever-larger nuclear arsenals. The new proliferators – Israel, India, South Africa, Pakistan, North Korea – all claimed to need nuclear weapons for security as much as the original five. None of their programmes is indigenous: they all received help from other powers; some even received assistance for their bomb programmes. This follows the pattern of earlier proliferators. The US drew on European scientists during the Second World War and on British help; and the Manhattan project helped both the British and the French programmes. The Soviets stole nuclear weapons secrets from the Americans. They in turn helped the Chinese, as did US defectors to China. The Chinese helped Pakistan, and the Pakistanis helped North Korea. The French helped the Israelis, and the Israelis helped the South Africans. The South Africans sold yellow cake to Iran. The Canadians gave India the nuclear reactor from which it produced the fissile material for its first test explosion, and the US provided the fuel for India’s first reactor;  as far as we know, India has not helped anyone, but in 2015 it signed an agreement with Sri Lanka and is interested in selling reactors to Vietnam. 

Why did the nuclear weapons powers help other countries get nuclear weapons or overlook the drift towards nuclearization in the three countries of concern? Broadly speaking, they did so to establish and maintain “special relationships”, alliances, spheres of influence, strategic partnerships, and the like – in short, as part of the competition with geopolitical rivals. The logic of competition in the global political order in the end overrode the imperatives of non-proliferation in the nuclear order.

Nuclear Weapons in the Hands of Extremists?

The evidence that some Islamic extremist groups are interested in acquiring nuclear weapons is rather limited.  Their acquiring the bomb is in all likelihood a “low probability-but-high consequence” event. To that extent, it is worth worrying about in a measured way.  How to monitor and disrupt terrorist efforts to arm themselves with nuclear weapons and what to do in the wake of an attack are proper concerns of public policy.  These questions have been at the heart of much nuclear security thinking since 9/11.

The question here, though, is why Islamic extremists should want nuclear weapons. What security, political, or normative reasons account for their pursuit of nuclear weapons? Do they merely wish to possess the bomb, or do they actually want to use it?

Not a great deal is known about the thinking of these groups, but we can essay a thought-experiment. IS in particular seems to be quite serious about control of territory and the organization of a central authority or caliphate. If the caliphate is to be located in Syria-Iraq and perhaps some part(s) of Turkey, then protection of it from regional opponents such as Shia Iran, Shia splinters in present day Syria and Iraq, and Israel would be vital. Regionally, Israel is already a nuclear weapon power, Iran could yet go nuclear (though the prospects seem to have receded), and Saudi Arabia (with Pakistani help) could get nuclear weapons if not produce its own arsenal.  All three powers are neighbours of a putative caliphate centered in Syria-Iraq and would be formidable conventional military opponents, particularly Israel and Iran. In addition, there is the threat of Western military attack. In such a situation, nuclear weapons would have deterrent value.

Nuclear weapons may have more than deterrent value for IS. If IS wants to attract and keep followers and eventually make itself the authoritative centre of its brand of Sunni Islam, nuclear weapons could play a role in the political correlation of forces within Sunni Islam, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Nuclear weapons could be in the deepening struggle within Islam.

IS may want nuclear weapons for normative reasons as well. Islamic extremists harbour many types and degrees of resentment towards the West and Israel. They may see nuclear weapons as therefore playing a role in civilizational terms. Here nuclear weapons could function as symbolic of a resurgent Islam that can match other civilizations that have nuclear weapons – Christian, Jewish, Sinic, Hindu. Conceivably, though, the bomb also may be seen as playing a more material and destructive role – as a weapon of military jihad, of mass revenge for all the indignities wrought on Islamic societies. That is, a nuclear bomb might be thought of as a terrorist device that is actually detonated on some Western or Israeli city or facility – to create chaos and fear in the enemy and exact vengeance. IS may not fear retaliation, indeed may seek it for theological reasons as a form of religious apocalypse that is to be welcomed. 

If this thought-experiment gives us some sense of why Islamic extremists might want nuclear weapons, could they build a bomb or acquire one from a nuclear weapon state?

To build a bomb is far more difficult than is depicted in the now familiar accounts of clever schoolchildren constructing a home device.  IS has intermittent and shifting control over territories in Syria and Iraq, but we know little about the state of affairs within those territories and within the organization. Building a nuclear weapon in such a state of flux and instability would be a very challenging if not impossible task. A dirty bomb might be easier to construct and to use. Even this is challenging. For instance, how would IS get a dirty bomb into Israel or Western countries? 

If it is hard to build and deploy a bomb, could IS or other groups get a fission or dirty device from a nuclear power? There is some evidence that IS has been shopping around, though these could be scare tactics more than anything concerted.  The real constraint here is not financial or even logistical (getting the device out to IS in Syria-Iraq), but rather the disincentives for a nuclear power to part with a bomb. The greatest disincentive is that nuclear forensics will allow the victim state and its friends to quickly identify the origins of the device if and when it is actually detonated. The opprobrium of the world and almost certain retaliation would follow. Today, the only nuclear power that might transfer a nuclear bomb to IS or other extremists is Pakistan. Surely Islamabad has little incentive to be identified as the source of a nuclear terrorist attack and face nuclear retribution. Could IS steal the bomb from Pakistan or obtain it from sympathizers who are rogue elements in the Pakistani establishment? Not in the present circumstances when the Pakistan Army and civilian authority in a united Pakistan are still in charge. In a chaotic Pakistan that is heading towards collapse, the situation could be different; but then the nuclear threat would be much bigger than IS simply getting its hands on the bomb.

In sum, IS may want the bomb for deterrent or political/religious reasons, but it will take fairly exceptional circumstances for it to be able to build its own bomb or acquire one from a nuclear weapon power. Having said this, for policy purposes a reasonable amount of thought must go into to deal with the possibility. The Nuclear Security Summit, the Proliferation Security Initiative, and other international accords and national safeguards are steps in the right direction.

From the point of view of the relationship between global political order, the nuclear order, and nuclear security, the larger question is: how did it become possible for Al Qaeda and now IS to flourish to the point that the international community must worry about their access to nuclear weapons?

Finance and control of territory explain quite a lot: you can want the bomb, but you must have the money and land for it. Both entities have had access to financial resources far greater than earlier terrorist groups possessed. This means they can afford to buy the components for a bomb or buy a bomb outright. Both organizations also control land in a way no terrorist group before them has done. A nuclear bomb has to be assembled and stored in politically-stable space under one’s control pending deployment or use. If it is to be mounted on an airplane or missile, the space requirements increase. IS today controls considerable space in Syria as well as Iraq. Al Qaeda at its peak had a base in Afghanistan; if Al Qaeda still has a working relationship with Taliban factions in Afghanistan, it may yet have access to territories in which it could assemble, house, and deploy a nuclear bomb.

If Al Qaeda and IS control finances and spaces that makes it possible for them to covet the bomb, what accounts for the rise of Al Qaeda in the first place, its resurgence in Syria, and the subsequent rise of IS?

This is a complex story, but the causes include: deep anti-Westernism within Islam that had been brewing for decades going back at least to the establishment of Israel; the rise of militant Islam nurtured to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan; Pakistan’s desire for strategic depth and asymmetric warfare against India and its support of the Taliban; the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the US, which increased resentment of the West; the pro-democracy movements in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf culminating in the overthrow of the Tunisian, Libyan, and Egyptian governments and the political room it created for fundamentalist groups; the anti-Assad movement in Syria; the mishandling of Iraqi politics by the Maliki government after the US pullout; the funding of Sunni forces in Syria by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries; the growing rift between Sunni and Shia in Iraq; the West’s insistence that Assad had to relinquish power altogether; and the exploitation of the churning in Syria by extremists and the collapse of moderate forces between Sunni and Shia extremism. 

The rise of Islamic extremism and the reputed desire of some groups for the bomb are telling. Islamic extremism can be traced to anti-Westernism, divisions within Islam, and regional political churning, but there is no escaping the fact that the Cold War’s competition played out in Afghanistan between the Soviet Union, the US, China, Pakistan, and Iran was the original catalyst. It is here that extremism was trained in asymmetric warfare, was honed ideologically, and was internationalized by freedom fighters drawn from all parts of the Islamic world. Similarly, the competition between the US and Russia, and between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran have created the space for Al Qaeda-IS extremism in Syria-Iraq. Like North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran, the two groups can justify their desire for nuclear weapons on security grounds. They may have more apocalyptic motives, but the deterrence motive is quite comprehensible.

Unlike North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran, Islamic extremists have not got the expertise or the materials for a bomb. Nor is it likely that anyone will give them a device. Any opportunities that could have become available as a result of competition in the global and regional political order have been closed by the nuclear powers to make sure that terrorist groups cannot lay their hands on nuclear materials or a nuclear device. Perhaps the only way that these groups could get a nuclear weapon is from a Pakistan that is on the verge of collapse. 

The US and Russia After the Cold War

At the end of the Cold War, it was hoped that the US and Russia would make deep cuts in nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, they have not done so. In 1990, the two powers between them had 20,000 nuclear warheads. Today they are thought to have just over 15,000. Of the 15,000, 3500 are deployed strategic weapons, 3100 are in reserve, and 6200 are slated for dismantling.  The two powers have 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and nearly 4 times the number of strategic weapons between them than the rest of the nuclear powers combined.  By 2018, they are committed to reducing their strategic stockpiles to 1550 each. This will still leave them with 3100 strategic weapons, which would be three-and-a-half times the arsenals of the others combined (assuming the others do not grow very significantly).  Compounding the problem is the fact that 1800 strategic weapons are presently on alert status. 

Overall, then, the record of the two big powers is a sad one, particularly given their obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and it gives them little moral authority in dealing with horizontal proliferation.

Why has their record been so disappointing?

One reason is that it takes time to dismantle nuclear weapons safely and permanently.  The US estimates that it dismantles about 250 weapons per year, presumably of various sizes and vintage. At that rate, it would take 60 years to dismantle the American arsenal of 15,000 weapons – if disarmament were accepted as a goal, though, the rate would undoubtedly be much quicker. In the meantime, for a variety of reasons including a resurging sense of threat from Russia, the US has slowed down since the 1990s as presumably has Russia for largely parallel reasons. 

Another reason the record has been disappointing is the resistance of a military-industrial-nuclear complex. The two powers built up a massive body of argumentation in support of big nuclear arsenals; wrote and embedded doctrines on nuclear deterrence and nuclear warfighting; produced huge organizational structures and routines; and invested heavily in the requisite human capital – in short, they created a “strategic enclave” of ideas, institutions, and interests that now stands in the way of more ambitious arms reduction agreements.  Also getting in the way of faster reductions are the lobbying activities of scientific, commercial, and political constituencies at home, for careers, jobs, and profits ride on the perpetuation of robust nuclear weapons programmes. In addition, partisan politics cause political leaderships to be cautious in embarking upon nuclear reduction negotiations and endorsing even hard-won agreements.

Technology too has retarded the pace of reductions, specifically, US insistence on proceeding with the development and deployment of missile defence and new, highly-accurate conventional weapons. This has made Moscow suspicious of nuclear reductions, since American advances in the two fields could make Russia more vulnerable to a first-strike and to diplomatic coercion. 

Perhaps most importantly, nuclear arms reductions between the US and Russia have been slow because, the end of the Cold War notwithstanding, tensions between the two have steadily increased since 1989-90. Each has come to regard the other as expansionist: Washington thinks that Moscow is trying to re-create an empire in the European part of the former Soviet Union; and Moscow thinks that Washington is determined to expand the reach of NATO. The result is something akin to the Cold War, and a classic security dilemma governs their interactions. In this setting, both sides are reluctant to make deeper weapons cuts lest it appear as appeasement and undermines deterrence. Given the US’s much greater economic and military power, Russia is particularly stiff-necked about reductions, even though the economic burdens of carrying these weapons are proportionately greater.

The disappointing record of US-Russian nuclear reductions arises in large part from their competition in the global political order. Though there are domestic hurdles to reductions, the principal problem is growing geopolitical and diplomatic mistrust between the two nuclear powers. Thus, competition in the global political order continues to override the obligations of the two powers in the global nuclear order, namely, to rid the world of their nuclear weapons.


This review of horizontal proliferation, actual and putative, and the lack of greater progress on disarmament between the US and Russia suggests that the oligopolistic structure of global political and nuclear order fosters both competition and collusion between the major players. The ability of states and non-state actors to acquire nuclear weapons depends crucially on their technical abilities but also the workings of the global political and nuclear order. The nuclear order is “nested” in the larger global political order. The two together have helped limit proliferation, but both orders have also been exploited by determined proliferators. Competition between the major powers has opened spaces that determined proliferators have been able to use to their advantage. So also US-Russia competition has slowed disarmament. On the other hand, Iran and Islamic extremists have thus far been denied nuclear weapons thanks to cooperation between the major powers. That great power competition is bad for nuclear security and that cooperation is good is hardly a revolutionary thought. It nonetheless remains a fact of international life. 

Looking ahead, North Korea and Pakistan appear the greatest challenges to the global nuclear and therefore political order. North Korea is the most opaque state on earth, and Pakistan is deeply troubled; both could collapse, with implications for nuclear security. If North Korea crumbles, it will in all likelihood be a fairly sudden event; in the case of Pakistan, the decay if it continues will be more gradual. Both cases pose a challenge for nuclear security. Iran and Islamic extremism might turn out to be the relatively easy cases for great power cooperation. The Iran deal suggests that patient diplomacy is vital. Also vital is the role of an intermediary power from among the great powers, a power that “plays both sides”. In the Iran case, this was Russia.  In the case of North Korea and Pakistan, it must be China.

(1) Scott Sagan, “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons? Three Models in Search of a Bomb,” International Security, 21, 3 (Winter 1996-97), pp. 54-86.

(2) By a nuclear weapon power, I mean any country that has nuclear weapons, whether or not it is a “nuclear weapon state” as defined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

(3) Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “North Korea,” 

(4) Zia Mian, A.H. Nayyar, and R. Rajaraman, “Exploring Uranium Resource Constraints on Fissile Material Production in Pakistan,” Science and Global Security, 17 (2009), pp. 80-82.

(5) Feroz Khan, Eating Grass:  The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Stanford:  Stanford University Press, 2012), p. 51.

(6) Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “Pakistan,” 

(7) See NTI, “Pakistan” and Saeed Shah, “Pakistan in Talks to Acquire 3 Nuclear Plants From China,” Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2014,

(8) Shah, “Pakistan in Talks to Acquire 3 Nuclear Plants From China.”

(9) Jon Wolfenstahl, “Fact Sheet: Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Program and Facilities,” Iran Fact File, James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, April 18, 2014, On recent discoveries, see “Iran Says It Has Found New Deposits of Uranium,” New York Times, February 23, 2013, 

(10) Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “Iran,” 

(11) Al.J. Venter, Iran’s Nuclear Option: Teheran’s Quest for the Atom Bomb (Haverford, PA:  Casemate, 2005), p. 274 on the numbers of students sent abroad and on the Iranian nuclear relationship with Pakistan.

(12) NTI, “Iran” on China’s and Russia’s role.

(13) See Jessica Varnum, “60 Years of Atoms for Peace,” Nuclear Engineering International, January 24, 2013, Other countries also played a role in pushing for a non-proliferation treaty, especially Ireland which sponsored a series of UN resolutions on proliferation. See Leonard Weiss, “India and the NPT,” Strategic Analysis, vol. 34, no. 2 (March 2010), pp. 259-260, 

India’s first nuclear agreement though was with France. See Jayita Sarkar, "'Wean Them Away from French Tutelage': Franco-Indian Nuclear Relations and Anglo-American Anxieties During the Early Cold War, 1948–1952" Cold War History, February 11, 2015, DOI:10.1080/14682745.2014.989840. There is evidence that in the early 1960s the US briefly considered helping India go nuclear given China’s nuclearization. See George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, pp. 93-95.

(14) “India, Sri Lanka ink 4 agreements including civil nuclear cooperation,” India Today, February 16, 2015, On India-Vietnam, see Indrani Bagchi, “India ignores China's frown, offers defence boost to Vietnam,” Times of India, October 29, 2014,

(16) On the dangers of nuclear terrorism and what had to be done to prevent it, see Graham E. Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe (New York: Holt, 2004)     and Charles Ferguson and William Potter, The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2005).     

(17) For an attempt to think through how the US and the world might react to nuclear terrorism, see Benjamin E. Schwartz, Right of Boom: The Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism (New York: The Overlook Press, 2015). On the exaggeration of nuclear terrorism, see John Mueller, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al Qadea (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 181-233.

(18) The possibility of Pakistan supplying key technologies or extended deterrence to Saudi Arabia is discussed in Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “Saudi Arabia,” 

(19) For this view of IS, see Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015, 

(20) On the difficulties facing terrorist groups who might want to build or otherwise acquire the bomb, see Mueller, Atomic Obsession, pp. 181-190.

(21) IS reputedly got their hands on uranium compounds from a university in Mosul which could be used for a dirty bomb, but the amount of material is small and useless for a nuclear bomb. Even if the uranium compounds were scattered about, say, a city, the effects would be small. See Bob Kelley, “Analysis: The strange case of Iraq's missing uranium,” IHS Jane’s 360, July 14, 2014, Kelley was formerly with the IAEA and Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory.

 (22) Alexander Sehmer, “See Isis could obtain nuclear weapon from Pakistan, warns India,” The Independent, May 31, 2015. The Indian Minister of State for Defence made the claim about Pakistan at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore. The article cites IS’s propaganda journal, Daqib, to the effect that “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilāyah [official] in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region."

(23) All this and more is argued expertly in Patrick Cockburn, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (New Delhi:  LeftWord Books, 2015), see especially pp. 9-23 and pp. 106-124. Cockburn notes: “It was the US, Europe, and their regional allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates that created the conditions for the rise of ISIS. They kept the war going in Syria, though it was obvious from 2012 that Assad would not fall.” (p. 22) The role of Russia and Iran in causing the problems of Syria-Iraq must also be factored in to the analysis.

(24) An outside possibility is that Islamic extremists would reach out to North Korea and Pyongyang might find reasons to help them.

(25) Gareth Evans, Tanya Ogilvie-White, and Ramesh Thakur, Nuclear Weapons:  The State of Play 2015 (Canberra: Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2015), p. 19.

(26) Evans et al, Nuclear Weapons, p. 3.

(27) Evans et al, Nuclear Weapons, p. 34.

(28) Evans et al, Nuclear Weapons, p. 57.

(29) See the US process at National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), “Dismantlement and Disposition,”

(30) Mike Shuster, “U.S. Dismantles The Biggest Of Its Cold War Nukes,” NPR, October 29, 2011, Russia does not disclose exact numbers of weapons in its arsenal so it is difficult to know how many weapons it has and how quickly it dismantles them.

(31) On the term strategic enclave, see Itty Abraham, “India's "Strategic Enclave": Civilian Scientists and Military Technologies,” Armed Forces & Society, 18, Winter 1992, pp. 231-252.

(32) See for instance Roland Oliphant, “Barack Obama praises Putin for help clinching Iran deal,” The Telegraph, July 15, 2015,